Monday, September 17, 2007

Cancun #24

A little shop selling candles, potions, and other "magical" supplies.

Herbs for sale with their uses described on handwritten placards.

The interior of Mercado 23.

I mentioned earlier that Mercado 28 is somewhat commercial and touristy, but a local friend advised me to visit Mercado 23, which he assured me would represent a more indigenous worldview. He was right. We found a multitude of shops with herbs, candles, and statues of lesser known saints. For example, we saw many depictions of a "saint" they call "La Santisima Muerte," or "Most Holy Death." I asked an old Indian woman why people honor death, and she said they treat death like a saint and pray to him for good luck. I was really straining to bridge the cultural divide and wanted to ask if they never worried death would ultimately betray them in the end. I mean, no matter how much good fortune we accumulate in life, we all have to die. However, my Spanish failed me in that moment, or maybe I was just speechless; I just couldn't remember what to say.

If anyone out there understands the ideology or logic surrounding la Santisima Muerte, I would love to hear from you.

We found other shops with a wide variety of magical potions with descriptive titles, like "How to Trap a Man," or "Shut Your Wife's Mouth." I could have stayed longer, but I was truly an outsider. What could I buy without crossing some kind of invisible cultural barrier?

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